For those looking to take the perfect stroll through the woods thats not too long and not too strenuous, with a dash of history- this is the hike for you. This 3 mile roundtrip trek is great to do in a group or by yourself. An easy 35 minute drive from Asheville, located in Old Fort, NC, the trail can be found with one simple turn off the highway. Turning onto Catawba River Rd, you will dead end to the parking area for the trail head. The U.S. Forrest Service recently built a parking lot with restroom huts and a clear path to lead you onto the trail.
The Catawba Falls trail just recently reopened to the public after years of being private property and illegal to hike without the proper permit. The land surrounding the falls was privately purchased in the 1920’s to cultivate hydroelectric power by constructing a dam beneath the falls. Prior to the dam’s construction, the falls were a marketed tourist attraction for those traveling through the North Carolina mountains. Right when you begin your hike to the falls, you will come across the first signs of the old and the new. Remnants of one of the buildings sit alongside one of the two new beautiful footbridges put on the trail in 2016.
Over the first stream and footbridge, you will continue down a well cleared path, parallel to the stream flowing from the base of the falls. During your travels, there are several spots to venture down to the water and wander directly along the stream bed.
About midway on the trail, you will cross a small waterfall; this is the first of three falls you will come across on this hike. By these falls, you will find a great rock for stopping and watching the water glide through.
Around the bend, and up a small incline, you will find the site of the dam. You can see the moss covered stone surrounding the basin, while stepping behind the wall to watch the water still flowing down the structure. Next door to the dam is another partial building left behind.
As you continue down the path, you will find the second footbridge over top another set of falls, looking out on the tall trees and mountains seen in the distance.
A short way from the footbridge, you will meet the base of Catawba Falls. The cascading 100 foot falls are an incredible scene to take in. If you are brave enough, there is a pathway to climb to the upper part of the falls. But take caution, it does get steep, rocky, and at some points slippery.
The beauty of the falls is a one of a kind experience, easily finding itself as one of my favorite go-to hikes.
A recent Asheville resident, Lily is a lover of life, carbs, cats, adventures, and considers herself an honorary Gilmore Girl.